2,000 foreign students face deportation as London Met University loses visa rights

AFP Photo / Carl Court
Over 2,000 non-EU students could be deported from the UK now that the London Metropolitan University has been stripped of its Highly Trusted Status, which was required to sponsor foreigners and grant visas.

­The students may be expelled within 60 days if they don’t find another way to sponsor their studies, the National Union of Students (NUS) said.

London Met announced the loss of its Highly Trusted Status on the university’s website. A UK Border Agency (UKBA) official claimed that London Met had failed to address serious deficiencies identified by the UKBA six months ago.

London Metropolitan discovered in a survey that more than a quarter of the university’s foreign students did not have permission to be in the UK, Immigration Minister Damian Green told the AP. The university’s visa-granting status was suspended last month.

"We have been working with them since then, but the latest audit revealed problems with 61% of files randomly sampled. Allowing London Metropolitan University to continue to sponsor and teach international students was not an option,” the statement by UKBA said.

David Willetts, the Universities Minister, said that a special task force will be formed to aid the foreigners affected by the loss of sponsorship, including help “finding other institutions at which to finish their studies.”

Professor Malcolm Gillies, vice chancellor at the London Metropolitan, expressed concern that the UKBA measure could be broadened to every educational institution in the country, ITV News reported.

The National Union of Students (NUS) contacted top UK officials on Wednesday to “express anger” over the situation, and to point out the “potentially catastrophic effects on higher education as a 12.5-billion pound per year export industry for the UK”.

NUS President Liam Burns also called the measures “disgusting,” arguing that foreign students were “used as a political football by politicians who seem either incapable of understanding, or are simply uncaring about the impact of their decisions on individuals, universities and the UK economy.”

The London Met claimed that the UKBA probe had left a "10 million pound black hole" in their budget.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, London Met student Yemi, a Nigerian national, said, “I'm disappointed my plans went down the drain. … I chose London Met over Middlesex and City, and it proved costly. As early as February I had made plans for London Met and never in my wildest imagination did I think this could happen.”